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Alaska Air Guardsmen rescue two men from airplane crash near Coal Creek

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued two men early this morning after their plane crashed near Coal Creek, about 55 miles west of Anchorage.

The two young, uninjured men contacted a family member who then called the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at 9:55 p.m. to report the accident.

The Air National Guard was asked to respond, and they accepted the mission. About 30 minutes later, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron, with a team of Guardian Angel pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, departed for the crash site. While en route, they encountered bad weather and after several attempts to continue the mission safely, were forced to return to base.

The Pave Hawk and rescue crews departed JBER again at 1:00 a.m. and were able to reach the survivors and help them onto the helo by about 2:40 a.m. Then they headed back to JBER and arrived around 3:00 a.m., where the survivors were released to JBER security forces personnel.

Alaska Air National Guard rescue squadrons are equipped to respond to emergencies in several ways that other agencies are not, so they often get called for evening missions. Night-vision goggles are always used after civil twilight hours.

“Our crews always carry the goggles for instances just like this,” said Sr. Master Sgt. Robert Carte, RCC Superintendent. “Weather delays can push a rescue into evening darkness, and the NVGs are necessary for a safe rescue operation.”

The survivors of this crash were not properly equipped for long-term survival, but they had a satellite phone and were able to use it to call family.

“All pilots traveling in Alaska should have an emergency locator beacon on their aircraft, they should be packed for long-term survival, and a satellite phone is highly recommended as well,” said Carte. “Weather sometimes prevents rescue crews from reaching survivors for days,” he said.

Pilots may want to program the RCC into their satellite and cell phones. The number is 800-420-7230 or 907-551-7230.

“If you need to make one phone call, it should probably be to the people who can send rescue forces your way,” said Carte. “Having our number programmed into your phone can save you valuable time during an emergency,” he said.

All survivors must be released to medical authority or law enforcement, and when survivors are uninjured, they are generally released to law enforcement.

For this mission, the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with two saves.

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